Kicking out the Cats: from house cats to barn cats

We adopted two white cats, twin sisters, from the local humane society about seven years ago. Pearl and Fluffy are their names. We kept their claws in and let them go in and out of the house. They catch mice and other vermin around the place.  This is a blessing for Pearl especially, since she doesn’t tolerate cat food very well, but does just fine on her wildlife diet.

We lucked out with Pearl, apparently, because she has one green eye and one blue. When I took her to the vet right after adoption, the vet assured me she wasn’t blind. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but apparently blindness can be a problem for cats with different colored eyes.

Fluffy has major problems with flea and tick medicine. I’ve tried a few: off-brand, name-brand, I even doused her in Tea Tree Oil to see if that would be effective (it wasn’t). Because we are in tick and lyme disease country. The oldest five kids have had the little buggers. Josh and I, too. Josh’s only tick was brought in by an unmedicated Fluffy, who lay on his bed all night while the tick crawled onto it’s new host. If that doesn’t make you feel warm and cuddly, I don’t know what will.

When I treat Fluffy with meds (on the back of her neck) she disappears for a few days. She reappears red and raw on and around the medicated spot. I believe she has an allergic reaction to the meds, but she also rubs on anything she can find. She bleeds, scabs, and loses every hair in the area. By the time she’s due for her next dose, the skin has just started to heal and the cycle repeats. I can’t bear her suffering, so I haven’t medicated the cats for a few years.

Now, I’ve wanted to move the cats out for a couple of years. I was determined when: I brought a tossed green salad to my parent’s house for Sunday dinner and it was covered in fine white hairs. The hairs probably transferred from a kitchen towel I used to dry the salad bowl.  My gag reflex is going again just thinking about it! I was resolute when we had house appraisers over and a cat started puking all over the kid’s bedroom carpet. Can they take off a few grand from the appraisal for cat-puke carpet? I think so! I was committed when I sat down to eat my bowl of cereal and found a single cat hair on my fruit loop.  I don’t even want to know how many cat hairs I haven’t noticed over the years.

And as nasty as the hair and vomit problems are, the likelihood that the cats will transfer ticks and lyme disease to the kids is too high.

As often as I’ve told Josh the cats are getting relocated to the barn, he’s told me this just can’t be done. He figures they’re indoor cats and they just can’t be persuaded to keep out. Years ago, on the car ride home after committing to adopt the kittens, Josh told me that he would never scoop the litter box. While I’ve been respectful of his opinion as my partner until now, his dismal contribution has left him little ground to stand on in this department. I mentioned my cat woes to my girlfriend Bonniea couple of months ago. She told me they house their cat out in their backyard shed. They provide food, water, and some hay to nestle into, and she’s fine.

When we returned home three nights ago from our recent road trip we found cat feces and urine deposited across the family room flooring. Thank goodness we had swapped out our carpet for Pergo a few years back! Still, I was stunned because for my entire last pregnancy no one filled in for me and scooped the litter box, yet the cats never made deposits anywhere else indoors. We’re talking a good eight months, folks! I asked Josh if he had accidentally closed the laundry/cat room door when he flew out to meet us. Nope, the door was open, so they had access to their litter box.

However, the litter level in the box was very low, probably about an inch and a half before he left. By the time we returned, it was a solid block of nasty that they couldn’t use. This filth was the last straw for me. After scraping dried poop puddles off the floors and disinfecting the entire area, I made up my mind. As the sole cat caretaker, moving our cats to the shed sounds like less like the impossible dream and more like a hygienic necessity to me.

The shed was formerly our hobby-farming chicken coop and it’s a swanky fowl house with nesting boxes and two windows. It has a few tools lining the wall, but the shed will keep Pearl and Fluffy dry and comfortable. I plan to hang a chicken farmer’s heat lamp in there for warmth in the winter.

I figure our beds are pretty inviting, so I need to entice the cats into their new space. Yesterday at Wal-Mart I bought catnip, fancy “wet” cat feed, and two cat toys that sound and look like mice in balls. This morning I dragged their food and water dishes and the 5 gallon bucket of food down to the shed. I opened the window so the cats have easy access, but (hopefully) raccoons and mice do not. I put the wet food in the feed dish and scattered catnip all over the floor and windowsill. I carried one of the cats into her new digs and set her down by her food. She looked a little confused, but quickly noticed the moist morsels and set to work at her feed dish.

I’m hoping the cats will take to their new place quickly. Tomorrow I’ll lay out some hay or sew up some cat bedding and hope for the best. I’ll probably have to carry both cats to their new place a few times over the next few days, so they both get the message. My fingers are crossed.

Have you tried this? Any other suggestions?

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